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Tuesday 8th June - Auckland
By Claire
Tuesday, 8th June 2004 20:44

Our bags arrived, the box was undamaged, we found a trolley and went through customs. There is a very complex customs declaration form that we had to fill in before entering New Zealand. We had to go through the red 'Goods to Declare' channel, and considering customs always makes me feel guilty, going through the red channel was even worse. We had boots, you see, and spoons, so we had to have our bags checked. New Zealanders are terrified about food being brought in to their country, and big 'amnesty bins' are placed all round the airport for you to throw away any food you have with you. I took the first oportunity to discard the bits of cheese and bread that I hadn't had time to eat, and was worried about the stock of Cadbury's chocolate in the bags.

The customs man wanted to see our shoes, which were in the bottom of the rucksack, so we unpacked everything and asked him about the chocolate, which, by the way, was fine. He was very friendly and chatty and said that we needed to have our bags x-rayed (again) before leaving. All our stuff went on the conveyor belt, including my films, and they all popped out at the other end. Except my little backpack. And, at exactly the same moment as the security man found it, I remembered I had put an apple in the side pocket a couple of days ago and had completely forgotten about it. Considering we'd had no sleep for about 30 hours, though, that was hardly surprising.

I'd done the same thing entering Mexico, and the man laughed, took the apple, and sent me on my way. Not this time. No, there are procedures. Did I know the implications of my actions? Was I taking responsiblility for the bag and its contents? It's a very serious matter, madam. To his credit, the officious official seemed a little embarassed at the $200 fine he made me pay, but said that although he knew I didn't mean it, he took his job very seriously. The forms I had to sign said that these measures were in place because such a large number of people forgot that they were carrying prohibited articles. It seems that it's hardly a deterrent to make someone pay if they forget that they have an item they're not supposed to have - I knew about the fine, it didn't make me any less tired or able to remember things.

So we paid - they accept credit cards, travellers' cheques and most currencies, and headed for a taxi to take us to the hostel. I was fed up now, $200 spent on an apple I hadn't even had a chance to eat. To make matters worse, Auckland looks like England, they drive on the left, there's a Lloyds bank with the black horse logo, there's Heinz adverts and signs in English. I just wanted to go home. Instead, I felt very homesick and cried for about half an hour until Mikey made me go to sleep. I slept for about five hours, and, when I woke up at 4pm, I felt much better.

We went out to find a supermarket and something to eat, and came back to the hostel via 'Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind', a beautiful, moving film that kept us awake until bed time. Tomorrow we have a proper day, and it has to be better than this one. I'm quite looking forward to it.

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